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USA Hockey announces Eichel, Connor as 2014-15 award winners

by Staff Writer / Columbus Blue Jackets

USA Hockey on Thursday named Boston University center Jack Eichel and Youngstown Phantoms forward Kyle Connor, each projected first-round picks in the 2015 NHL Draft, as 2014-15 award winners.

Eichel, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 draft, was named College Hockey Player of the Year. Connor, No. 13 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking, won the Dave Tyler Award as the top American-born player in junior hockey.

They will be honored at USA Hockey's President's Awards Gala on June 5 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Eichel, who led the NCAA with 71 points, 45 assists, a 1.77 points-per game average and plus-51 rating, also won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player, the Hockey East Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year awards, and was named a Hockey East First-Team All-Star. He set a Hockey East tournament record with 11 points and also helped the Terriers reach the Frozen Four championship game.

He also captained the United States at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, and had two goals and seven points in 10 games while helping the U.S. win the bronze medal at the 2015 World Championship in the Czech Republic.

Connor led the United States Hockey League with 80 points (34 goals, 46 assists).

"It's a huge honor and it is something that I am definitely excited about," Connor told the Youngstown website. "This year was as big of a year as any, and I really feel like I took that next step in my hockey career both on and off the ice. I feel that my role as assistant captain this season also helped me develop as a leader both on the ice and in the locker room."

Connor will attend the University of Michigan in 2015-16.

Center Auston Matthews, a projected top pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, won the Bob Johnson Award recognizing excellence in international hockey competition during a specific season of play.

Matthews played a huge role in leading the United States to a gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Switzerland. He had a tournament-high 15 points and tied for the lead with eight goals in seven games. He was named tournament MVP and the championship's best forward.

Matthews is undecided on where he'll play in 2015-16. Playing with the United States National Team Development Program under-18 team this season, he set USNTDP records for goals (55) and points (117) in a season, surpassing the Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane, who had 52 goals and 102 points in 2005-06. Matthews also played for the U.S. at the 2015 WJC.

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